Civics is a branch of political science that focuses on the role of citizens in their governments. In many nations, it is a fundamental part of instruction for students who are about to graduate, ensuring that every citizen has at least a basic knowledge of it. The study of civics may be combined with economics, because political and economic systems are often closely intertwined, and understanding both can be key to succeeding in society.
Students of this discipline look at both the duties and entitlements of citizens, ranging from paying taxes to receiving health care. They may also examine some of the larger ethical issues involved in politics, along with the workings of specific systems of government. At a basic level, civics informs people about the societies they live in, and how they can interact with the government. On a more advanced level, this field can involve an exploration of the social issues of a society, and look at the way in which history, social norms, economic policy, and other factors influence the health of a nation and its government.
In civics education classes, students are usually taught about the system of government used in their nation, and the implications of that government in their own lives. Students are also encouraged to get involved in their governments, with many classes including assignments like writing letters to elected officials, visiting government offices, or talking with local politicians. The goal is usually to get students engaged in their society. At the advanced levels, people may learn about the perspective of other countries so that they understand the systems of government used around the world, along with the nature of citizenship in a variety of places.
When people apply for citizenship in a new country, they are often asked to take civics classes. These courses introduce immigrants to the system of government used in their new nation, and to their rights and responsibilities as citizens. For example, immigrants to the United States typically learn about the Bill of Rights and the guarantees laid out therein, while immigrants to Sweden might be educated about that country's system of taxation.
Many people feel that studying civics is a critical part of being a citizen, because it helps people understand their relationship to the government and each other. In every society, from an anarchist cooperative to a totalitarian regime, citizens have specific rights and responsibilities, and being educated about these can be very empowering. People who do not know their rights may find themselves abused, while people who fail to fulfill responsibilities may face legal penalties.